Magical Competition with C-drama Vibes

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Rating: 3.5 stars

A Magic Steeped in Poison has been one of my most anticipated 2022 debuts, and it ended up being the perfect Lunar New Year read. Judy I. Lin's debut is a feast for the senses, full of mouthwatering descriptions of food, Chinese mythology and C-drama vibes. I'm loving this new trend of Asian-inspired historical fantasies, and The Book of Tea is a great addition to the subgenre. It's magical and fun and imaginative. I seriously wanted to throw on a hanfu and sip some tea after reading it. (I also wanted to eat my weight in Chinese food after, but that's beside the point.)

✨The Magic ✨ There were so many things to like about A Magic Steeped in Poison. I have a soft spot for prickly heroines, and Ning, our self-proclaimed prickly protagonist, had my attention early on. Sure she's a little rough around the edges, but her no-nonsense, straightforward approach to life is refreshing, and the fact that she knows that she's different (but not in an "I'm not like other girls" way,) from everyone else just makes you want to hug her and ply her with tea. Or maybe just hug her while she plies you with tea.

The Song dynasty-inspired world is lovely backdrop for the story. Seriously, just give me a hanfu and let me live out my newfound dreams of starring in an Asian-inspired fantasy.

💀The Poison 💀 The overall story didn't come together as cohesively as it could have. One big example is the romance which was either super intense or completely ignored. I wouldn't mind the insta-love-y vibes if it had been developed more afterwards, but just as we were starting to make some progress, it turns into radio silence on the romance front. I wouldn't have such an issue with this if 1) the reason for the tension between Nina and her love interest didn't feel like a weak excuse for drama and 2) if it weren't immediately followed by an epiphany that seemed way too intense in comparison.

Overall, A Magic Steeped in Poison is a solid debut, and my biggest complaint about the book is the cliffhanger that has me counting down the days until Aug 23 😩